Andover landfill cleanup bill heads to Senate Floor

The Finance Committee passed a bill this week to provide $10.3 million to begin cleanup of the state’s worst landfill. The closed Waste Disposal Engineering (WDE) Landfill in Andover is ranked at the top of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s list in terms of hazard and risk to public health; it is the agency’s first cleanup priority among the state’s 100 closed landfills.

The WDE landfill, including its hazardous waste pit, is releasing various volatile organic compounds, metals, and other substances into the groundwater. A number of mitigation measures have been put into place to reduce the impacts to the surrounding area. These measures have provided a level of protection to the community’s drinking water and nearby Coon Creek. The City of Andover’s drinking water wells and neighboring private wells are not impacted at this time, but the mitigation systems are not sustainable in the long-term. According to the agency, the best solution available is to remove the hazardous waste from the pit and dispose of it properly.

The project is time-sensitive, however: the state must provide $10.3 million by the end of February in order to start the cleanup project in late summer of 2019. If funds are received after February, the schedule must be revised and cleanup will be moved into 2020. Doing so could likely result in the need for more money to complete the cleanup.

The bill appropriates $10.3 million in cleanup funds from the state’s Closed Landfill Investment Fund (CLIF), drawing criticism from several committee members who agreed with the MPCA that the funding source for cleanup of landfills of this type should instead be derived from general obligation bonds. They argued that CLIF was specifically set up 20 years ago to finance the operation and maintenance costs of the 110 landfills in the state’s Closed Landfill Program and was never intended to finance large hazardous landfill cleanup projects. The bill was approved on a narrow voice vote and sent to the Senate floor. (SF 611)